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Coup in a mortuary

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Theatre in the Park will this year open its calendar on a different note with talking corpses in a play titled The Coup. Written by New Zealand-based Zimbabwean Stanley Makuwe, the play focuses on the hard times the country went through a few years ago.

The play is set around the health sector where everything ultimately ends up in a mortuary. It is the mortuary that becomes the stage with protagonists being dead bodies.

The cadavers tell of the suffering they have encountered in their double experience of both the worlds of the living and the dead.

Despite some of them being already in their decomposing state, they manage to organise themselves to revolt against the repressive government led by a corrupt dictator.

The bodies are led by the youthful corpse of a former teacher to stage a coup marching and overthrowing the government and killing the president.

The presidents top echelons are not spared as the dead bodies want to achieve total emancipation.

Old habits seem to die hard as the dead presidents soul tries to bribe itself into heaven during the same night unsuccessfully.

The play has a riveting plot that Makuwe attributes to a short story he authored titled Life in a Third-World Mortuary from which the play was created.

The short story was shortlisted on the 2005 BBC short story competition.

In 1996, as a final-year nursing student at one of the major public hospitals in Zimbabwe, I witnessed a devastating industrial action by health professionals.

Students were not allowed to go on strike, so we became the backbone of a paralysed health system, said Makuwe.

We carried out the duties of doctors, nurses, cleaners and mortuary attendants. Negotiations for a pay rise for health professionals kept hitting a brick wall for nearly a month. Many people died in hospitals. The mortuary looked like a scene in the movie Hotel Rwanda.

He said during one of his many visits to the mortuary to dump yet another dead body something struck him.

I just imagined: If all these bodies piled up on the floor were to speak, what would they say? Who would they hold responsible for the unfortunate loss of their lives?

What action would they take?
To give a voice to the dead, he wrote the short story Life in a Third-World Mortuary and out of that short story the play was created.

The play is scheduled to run from February 21 to March 11.

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